“There is no compulsion in religion. The Right Way stands clearly distinguished from the wrong. Hence he who rejects the evil ones and believes in Allah has indeed taken hold of the firm, unbreakable handle. And Allah (Whom he has held for support) is All-Hearing, All-Knowing.”
(The Qur’ān – 2:256)
Dīn (religion) here signifies the belief about God and the entire system of life which rests upon it. The system of Islam, embracing belief, morals and practical conduct cannot be imposed by compulsion. These are not things to which people can be yoked forcibly.
Literally taghut means anyone who exceeds his legitimate limits. However, here it refers to the creature who exceeds the limits of his creatureliness and arrogates to himself godhead and lordship. There are three stages of man’s transgression and rebellion against God. First, that one acknowledges in principle that obedience to God is right, but disregards it in practice. This is fisq (transgression). Secondly, that one not only disobeys but also rejects obedience in principle, and thus either refuses to become the subject of anyone at all or adopts someone other than God as the object of service and devotion. This is kufr (infidelity). Thirdly, that one not only rebels against one’s Lord but also imposes one’s own will (in disregard of the Will of God) on God’s world and God’s creatures. Anyone who reaches such a point is termed taghut and no one can be a true believer in God unless the authority of such a taghut (evil one) is rejected.